Probabilistic graphical models (PGMs) are a rich framework for encoding probability distributions over complex domains: joint (multivariate) distributions over large numbers of random variables that interact with each other. These representations sit at the intersection of statistics and computer science, relying on concepts from probability theory, graph algorithms, machine learning, and more. They are the basis for the state-of-the-art methods in a wide variety of applications, such as medical diagnosis, image understanding, speech recognition, natural language processing, and many, many more. They are also a foundational tool in formulating many machine learning problems.
This course is the third in a sequence of three. Following the first course, which focused on representation, and the second, which focused on inference, this course addresses the question of learning: how a PGM can be learned from a data set of examples. The course discusses the key problems of parameter estimation in both directed and undirected models, as well as the structure learning task for directed models. The (highly recommended) honors track contains two hands-on programming assignments, in which key routines of two commonly used learning algorithms are implemented and applied to a real-world problem.

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Learning BN Structure

This module discusses the problem of learning the structure of Bayesian networks. We first discuss how this problem can be formulated as an optimization problem over a space of graph structures, and what are good ways to score different structures so as to trade off fit to data and model complexity. We then talk about how the optimization problem can be solved: exactly in a few cases, approximately in most others.